Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
Gardner City Council approved revisions to its policy on the sale of city owned property at Gardner Lake, including a controversial clause that will allow the city to annex property at the lake.
To date, about 150 lake residents have expressed interest. Council has approved the sale of over 95 tracts, and 86 of the residents have paid for the tracts. The sales have generated about $120,000, with sale cost being 56 cents per foot.
The Aug. 4 change allows the city administrator to sign quit claim deeds for future sales.
In presentations to the council Aug. 5, Michael Kramer, public works director, said the city is willing to sell land between a privately owned lot and the edge of the lake where no road lies between the private property and the lake.
He said no sale of land would occur if it would cause a dock owner to lose access to a currently permitted dock.
However, a clause in the revised policy that sets a ‘consent to annex’ as one of the restrictions imposed by the city generated discussions with Steve Shute, mayor, pledging that no forced annexation would occur “as long as I’m occupying this seat.”
Two Gardner Lake residents, Todd Chappel and Jan Pringle, told the council during public comments that they oppose the annexation clause with Pringle claiming that the city was using underhanded means to force residents to consent to annexation.
“This would not be annexation by consent. This looks more like extortion,” she said.
Pringle also raised concerns that Jim Pruetting, city administrator, stands to receive a bonus for annexing land to the city.
“This further contributes to making the whole idea incredibly suspect,” she said.
A clause in Pruetting’s contract will pay him an extra $2,500 for every 250 acres that the city annexes up to a maximum of 4,000 acres. Pruetting became city administrator in April, 2019.
But Kramer and Ryan Denk, city attorney, said that the clause does not mean the city intends to immediately annex property at the city.
Denk said the clause simply assures that should the city decide to annex, the property owner cannot oppose.
He likened the new restrictions to the covenants property developers file as part of subdivision by-laws.
“That article is strictly dealing with covenants, not annexation,” Denk told the council, adding that a decision to subject city owned property to annexation would depend on the governing body.
Lee Moore, council member, pointed out that the pledge to not annex property was only good for the current governing body.
“Elections have consequences,” said Melton.
Todd Winters, councilmember, asked whether staff could add more language to the clause for clarification.
“Adding more language will only confuse more,” said Melton.
The revised policy was approved unanimously.
In February, 2011, the council had approved a policy allowing Gardner Lake residents to buy properties the city owns between their lots and the water’s edge. The policy was established due to requests from lake-front property owners.

UPDATE: City provides additional information for clarification:
The article’s headline and content focus on the refuted notion that the city was conditioning the sale of the small parcels with a consent to annex into the city. That is inaccurate. The annexation language included in the deed restrictions refers to the covenants and deed restrictions, not annexation into the City of Gardner property. This was explained during the meeting by City Attorney Ryan Denk.
The article also highlights the notion that the city was attempting to extort residents of the lake. Those concerns were addressed with the clarification by Ryan Denk’s explanation of what the language really means. Yet from the reader’s point of view, the article and headline imply that the language still includes consent to annexation into the City of Gardner.  Also, it was not clarified in the article that the extortion claim was put to rest. The resident even put that claim to rest. — Daneeka Marshall- Oquendo, Gardner public information officer
The complete video is available on the city’s you tube channel.

2ND UPDATE: Clarification:
The “Declarations of Easements, Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions and subsequent Quit Claim Deed” approved by the Gardner City Council at the Aug. 5 meeting does not include consent to annexation into the City of Gardner. The citizen concerns, as described in The Gardner News article “Gardner Lake’s ‘quit claim’ deeds provides annexation consent” which ran Wed. Aug. 8, were addressed at the Aug. 5 council meeting. Michael Kramer clarified that the annexation language deals with covenants and restrictions and the addition of properties into those easements, covenants and restrictions––not annexation to the City of Gardner proper. Mayor Steve Shute explained this needed to be made clear because when people see the term ‘annexation,’ they think annexation into the city, but this clause is just meaning to annex into the restrictions of the covenant. City attorney Ryan Denk made it clear that the wording of the annexation clause doesn’t read that the property is annexed into the corporate limits of the City of Gardner, Kansas. It is annexed to this declaration. Rather than consent to annexation into the City of Gardner, which would require a separate legal form, the consent is to the other restrictions applied to the land being purchased such as: no fences over 4 ft. in height, no structures such as sheds and gazebos higher than 10 ft. or with a footprint larger than 120 sq. ft.
Michael E. Kramer, P.E., Public Works Director